I’m losing count of the amount of times in my life that I have become besotted with boys who really don’t care about me at all. I think we are all guilty of falling for and putting up with these boys for far too long. I’ve been ignored and then told off like a naughty child by the boy I was seeing but forgave him instantly because he came round with a free sachet of hot chocolate. I let the same boy keep me at arms length for a whole term at university because he “didn’t know what he wanted” whilst telling me he loved me as he orgasmed. I continued seeing a boy after a friend found him on Tinder, despite a conversation where we both expressed that we didn’t have Tinder, because he called me “beautiful” about once a month. I let him use me as a taxi service because he was so cute with my dog. I walked down a terrifying canal tow-path to his house (boat) alone, even after I asked him to escort me, because he was going to cook us dinner and couldn’t leave the oven on, yet when I got there he hadn’t even started cooking the Tesco-own sauce-from-a-jar carbonara. I let a boy who I clearly had fallen for use me for sex for half a year because he told me he had shown my Facebook page to his friends (that means he’s proud of me right?), yet when I suggested we go on a date he said “yeah we could go for a coke in the park”.

Personally when I’m with these boys I’m patiently waiting for them to say something or do something lovely for me, and occasionally they do. And then I use these rare occasions to explain to myself and my friends why I’m still seeing them after they showed up on tinder, only contact me for booty calls, cancel our plans for something “better” and think that steak and blow job day is actually a thing. Even the tiniest sign of approval, attachment, even emotion, from them can keep you going for weeks.

So why do we put ourselves through it, and more importantly, why do we keep putting ourselves through it, again and again, when they’ve already proved to us that they’re not worth it? Well there’s a theory which I learned during my psychology degree, used to explain gambling addiction: why people continue to gamble when they are losing more than they are winning, which can account for this behaviour:
Operant Conditioning, using a variable schedule of reinforcement – Don’t glaze over, this is a lot more interesting than it sounds. B. F. Skinner in the 50s – yes, this knowledge has been available for 60 years!! – found that the most effective way to train animals is not to reward them every time they perform the desired action, but at an irregular and unpredictable interval. This method produces a greater persistence in the behaviour, even after the reward stops. If the animal was rewarded every time they perform an action, and then the reward stopped, they would stop the behaviour very quickly, because they realise that the reward has ended. Whereas with variable reinforcement, the animal is trying to work out how to get the reward again, they don’t assume that the reward is not going to come, because they know that the reward is unpredictable anyway – it might come next time, or the time after that – so they keep going. Imagine you are seeing a boy who is lovely to you for 1 month and then becomes an arse, you’ll be disappointed and call them a dick and then stop texting back. For example, I was enamoured after my second “date” with a gorgeous Estonian PhD student, until he asked me to escort him to a London sex party, because he was “bored of the last girl he’d been sleeping with”, I left ASAP, and when he refused to see me out, I “accidentally” left his front door open. He deserved it. My point being, he hadn’t done the ground work, laying a confusing path of rewards (cute moments over the previous weeks) for me to excuse any of his behaviour and continue seeing him despite it. But with the guys that you can’t work out, who are sometimes perfect and sometimes arseholes, you make excuses and try again next time, waiting for your reward.

My advice ladies, if you are losing more than you are winning, get out now, stop wasting your time, kick that dirty habit.